NFL Sunday Night Football preview: Seahawks at Packers (+video)
Sunday Night Football pits the two powerhouses of the NFC in a rematch of the Conference Championship as the Seattle Seahawks travel to Lambeau Field to take on Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
Nearly eight months ago, NFL fans were treated to one of the most improbable comeback victories in playoff history.
The Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers played a wild, back-and-forth contest that eventually crowned Seattle as champions of the NFC. A 16-point Green Bay half-time lead evaporated in the second half as the Seahawks clawed their way back into the game and even led, only for the Packers to tie the game and send it to overtime. In the end, the Seahawks walked away with an overtime win and trip to the Superbowl.
With that game still fresh in the minds of many Packers players, coaching staff and fans, expect a raucous environment at Lambeau Sunday night – and a close hard-fought contest.
Green Bay enters this game coming off a hard-fought victory in Chicago against a long-time division rival. The Bears kept the game close up until the fourth quarter, when quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the offense were able to pull away. Rodgers was not prolific by any means in the contest, but was efficient, completing 78.2 percent of his passes and throwing for 3 touchdowns.
The Packers offense remained balanced in the face of adversity during the second and third quarter, in the end running the ball 30 times and throwing 23. The standout player in Week 1 was once cut, and more recently re-signed, wide out receiver James Jones who caught 4 passes for 51 yards, including two athletic grabs in the end zone for touchdowns. Expect Jones to figure heavily into the Green Bay red zone game plan again on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks dropped their first game of the season, falling to the up-and-coming St. Louis Rams while looking vulnerable on defense and inconsistent on offense.
The 34-31 loss for the Seahawks marks a dissapointing start to the season following a heart-wrenching last-minute loss to the New England Patriots in last season's Superbowl. The Seahawks offense seemed to shake off the rust in the fourth quarter and overcame an 11-point deficit to take the lead late in the fourth quarter. However, a last-minute touchdown and a stout Rams defense were Seattle's undoing. The offense seemed to be off all-day, and playing from behind forced quarterback Russell Wilson to throw more than the team would like. Coincidentally, in the deciding play of the game where the Seattle offense only needed one yard, the Seahawks drew up a shotgun run to Marshawn Lynch that came up short.
Both the Seahawks and the Packers will need to show improvement from Week 1 if they are to come away with a victory Sunday Night.
For Seattle, defense will be the key. Seattle's defense has been the lynchpin of their recent success and following a season in which the defense led the league in yards allowed per game (267.1), points (15.9) and defensive efficiency, coach Pete Carroll must have been shaking his head after his team allowed 373 yards and 34 points to a pedestrian Rams offense. The team's front office has worked hard to maintain its core of defense stars, but the loss of star strong safety Kam Chancellor has already had an adverse effect on the defense.
"We miss Kam Chancellor," defensive end Michael Bennett told ESPN.com. "Not just the way that he plays, but the way that he approaches the game, his leadership."
Chancellor, who is holding out for a better deal, is not expected to play Sunday.
On the other side of the ball, the Packers will hope that their offense can get off to a fast start in Week 2 following a sluggish first half against the Bears.
Green Bay's offensive attack finished first in offensive weighted DVOA (Defense-Adjusted Value Above Replacement) in 2014-2015, a statistic developed by Football Outsiders that measures the efficiency of an offense based on how and when yards and points are accumulated and weighted based on the team's schedule. A mix of run and pass made Green Bay successful last season, and the emergence of Eddie Lacy as a star running back has alleviated the workload for Aaron Rodgers allowing the passing attack to take advantage of big plays through the play action pass. Establishing Lacy early and often – and winning the battle at the line – will be important for the Green Bay offense against Seattle's run defense.
Already undermanned following a season-ending injury to Jordy Nelson, the Packers coaching staff will have to be creative in how the ball is spread around this Sunday against the Seahawks. The success of Lacy may end up being the deciding factor in how well Green Bay is able to manage against Seattle.
And Seattle will have to get a better, more consistent performance from its offense if it hopes to score alongside Rodgers and the Packers. Given last year's NFC Championship, virtually any outcome is in play for this week. The best approach for NFL fans is to sit back, relax, and take in what should be a fascinating Week 2 matchup.